We Shouldn’t Be Surprised That Tana and Jake Are Fake—They’re a Sign of the Times

Bless this hot mess

(Photo: Getty Images)

Rapper Offset said people will “do anything for clout,” and it turns out that for some, that means coupling up for social media views.

Tana Mongeau is fending off calls that her marriage to fellow YouTuber Jake Paul is a sham after a recent clip from her MTV reality show, MTV No Filter: Tana Turns 21, on July 31, showed the mini-celeb admitting that the wedding was just for “fun and content.”

This revelation comes on the heels of reports that the couple, who married on July 28 in what can only be called a bonkers Vegas wedding, hadn’t obtained a marriage license. Meaning they *probably* aren’t married IRL. ICYMI (and TBH, how could you?), Mongeau and Paul are YouTube’s latest and arguably biggest social media couple. The duo had an Ari-and-Pete-level romance—dating, getting engaged and tying the knot all within two months. The wedding was live-streamed (for a cool $50 per person) to followers, and #Jana (their couple name) traded vows in front of God, their friends and like 400 cameras. And of course, the wedding was super weird: There was a fight; there was an Oprah impersonator; the reception was beside a Zara in an open-air mall; and the couple reportedly left the reception separately. Despite all signs pointing to the fact that this whole wedding was bunk, some on social media were still surprised to hear that the newlyweds might not have been in it for happily-ever-after reasons. In response to the backlash, Mongeau took to Twitter to dispute the MTV clip, tweeting: “…i filmed those confessionals for the show A LONG TIME AGO! the “for fun and content” sound bite was from a very long sentence lmao and was a little salty to see it pulled out of context.. i understand though that MTV has their own creative & that these episodes are airing very late…i know that things have moved so fast, are unconventional, and confusing but i love jake. i truly do, in the weirdest fucking way. every second of this rollercoaster ride has been so fun & crazy.”

But TBH, we shouldn’t really be that surprised at the couple’s nuptials. Because the newest Mr. and Mrs. Mongeau-Paul aren’t an anomaly in their bid for clout—it’s a tried and true practice of celebs everywhere. Our willingness to lap up the hot mess of their relationship is a pretty big reflection of the times.

Celebs have always staged—and sold—relationships

First of all, Mongeau and Paul are *far* from the first celebs to pair up in the name of dolla dolla bills. Since pretty much the beginning of the celebrity machine, the PR relationship has been a celeb mainstay. From Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s 25-year Old Hollywood “love affair,” to 2016’s #Hiddleswift debacle, to 2019’s cute-but-kinda-fake rendezvous between Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes, celebs and wanna-be celebs have had no trouble pairing up. And for a myriad of reasons. Whether it was because they lived in a backwards time and couldn’t actually be with the one they loved (Tracy), or were bouncing back from a Kanye-and Kim-related takedown (Swift), or were trying to create buzz around a recently-released song (Mendes and Cabello), many a star relationship has been crafted in the minds of PR pros.

TBH, they’re lucrative AF

And why wouldn’t celebs do it? Forget sex, it’s love—or even the illusion of it—that sells; and relationships are lucrative for celebs, both financially *and* socially.

Music’s OG power couple Beyoncé Knowles Carter and husband Jay-Z are the perfect exemplar of this. While both musicians are truly powerful and successful in their own rights, pulling in networths of $400 million and $1 billion respectively, since linking up in 2001, the Carters have built an entire brand off of their coupledom, sharing the ups-and-downs of their 18-year relationship with fans across three successful albums and two joint world tours, netting a $1.4 billion empire. There is a Beyoncé without a Jay-Z and vice-versa, but always within an arm’s reach of each other, working in tandem and feeding into each other’s success. For every Lemonade, there’s a 444.

In the world of less high-profile celebs, social media influencer and (maybe former?) GOOP employee Marissa Fuchs sent Instagram into overdrive in June when her multi-day international proposal and surprise wedding went viral. The proposal was reportedly pitched to brands months before the actual event under the hashgtag #LOVEAMBITIONIST as a “one-of-a-kind proposal experience.” The stunt was covered by major news outlets such as People and Elite Daily, and according to The Atlantic, Fuchs garnered over 20,000 new followers since her first post. The same article heralded: “Welcome to the Era of Branded Engagements.”

Mongeau and Paul’s wedding—sham or not—drew in more than 76,000 online views, garnering an estimated $3.8 million for a wonky cam-quality livestream of their nuptials.

Beyond the profits, it’s indisputable that celeb couples also draw clout socially. Just look at the frenzy over the relationship between Riverdale stars Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse. The couple, who play Betty Cooper and Jughead Jones on the CW show, followed their characters’ trajectory in their own relationship offscreen, feeding into the #Bughead frenzy and making the pair the stars of the show. Their potential recent breakup, which hasn’t been confirmed but has nonetheless sent fans in to panic mode, has more implications than just an awkward on-set dynamic.

Celebs and influencers have no problem selling their love story, because people *will* buy it. And this has always been the case. In 2014, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie sold their wedding photos exclusively to People and Hello! magazine for $2 million. The couple wasc not the first by far. Celebs like George and Amal Clooney, the Beckhams and Britney Spears have also sold all-accesses passes to the biggest days of their lives. And this isn’t really any different.

The fact is, we as viewers love a hot mess

And the monetary success of these relationships says a lot about us, the viewers.  Mainly, that we’re nosy AF, and we love drama.

While I would rather listen to the Bachelorette‘s Jed sing his dog jingle on repeat than publicly admit to lapping up the #Jana debacle, the fact remains that I 100% considered paying $50 for the live-stream. $50! For what I knew was surely going to be a dumpster fire! And, it was! But I couldn’t look away.

What makes influencers like Mongeau and Paul so alluring is the fact that they’re the perfect conflation of celeb relationship drama and bananas weddings. Their relationship and nuptials tap into our innermost love: good old Schadenfreude.  We love to watch (and comment on) the world burn, as long as it’s not ours. It may be for this reason that even non-makeup lovers became so embroiled in the James Charles and Tati Westbrook drama.

Our views, obsession and money fuelled Mongeau and Paul’s nuptials to be completely out of control, while simultaneously allowing us to talk shit about it.

Which is honestly, just:

It’s why we simultaneously root for whoever the season’s Bachelorette is, while lamenting over the hypocrisy and stupidity of the whole show.

And that probably won’t change

Because, increasingly, the line between manufactured and sincere is blurred–even in an age when social media is meant to create transparency. And we kind of like that.

In a July article for VOX, writer Aja Romano delved in to the wild ride of Mongeau and Paul’s relationship. Their wedding, as the article points out, is like a WWE wrestling match,  in which the fans know it’s fake, but tune in for the scripted *authenticity.*

This isn’t new. It explains our love for “reality shows” like Keeping Up with The Kardashians and The Hills, shows that are built off moments of realness via confessionals, all within the trappings of manufactured or overwrought drama.

Mongeau and Paul’s wedding, according to Romano, bridged the divide between social media and reality TV and ushered in a new era YouTube personality. While blogging initially drew from the reality TV mainstay of confessionals, the medium is going out of style, and YouTubers like Mongeau and Paul are left to lean into other tools of reality TV in order to remain relevant, according to The Verge, transforming themselves into brands and creating content that manipulates the audience into “car[ing] about something produced blatantly to turn a profit.” These are our new reality stars.

So whether or not it’s fake doesn’t really matter—because we’ll buy into it anyways.


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